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Davis-Bacon Rule Could Impact MAPPS Members

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a ruling, reversing more than 50 years or policy and precedent, to expand the application of the "Davis-Bacon Act” to members of survey crews.  Davis-Bacon is a 1931, Depression-Era law that requires the payment of the "prevailing” local wage to construction workers.  Since at least the John F. Kennedy Administration in 1962, the Labor Department has ruled that members of survey crews are exempt from the law, except to the extent such workers "perform manual work, such as clearing brush and sharpening stakes” which then-Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg observed "are not commonplace”.

In March of this year, the Labor Department ruled, in response to a request from the Operating Engineers Union, that survey technicians are "laborers and mechanics” under the Davis-Bacon Act, subject to the prevailing wage provisions.

Congress held a hearing on the issue on June 18. National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Executive Director Curtis W. Sumner, LS, testified in opposition to the ruling. NSPS has also asked the Labor Department to reverse its position. MAPPS supported the NSPS position in a letter entered into the House subcommittee hearing record, as was a letter by more than a dozen organizations.  Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, criticized the Labor Department’s actions.

This issue raises several important questions for firms performing photogrammetric and related services.  Are photogrammetry projects truly "construction-related” and subject to Davis-Bacon, or pre, post, or non-construction and outside the law’s scope?  Is survey control part of the surveying now covered?  Are technicians setting photo control engaged in Davis-Bacon covered activities for more than 20 percent of a workweek?

Sumner said the decision came with "no public notice that the Labor Department was considering a change in its regulations; no request for public input or comments; no notification seeking of advice, comment or input from the surveying profession and employers/management; and in fact no public announcement of the new policy”.  He called the ruling "detrimental to the surveying profession” and said it will "be an administrative nightmare for surveying firms, contracting agencies, and the Labor Department … (and ) will result in confusion and costly compliance issues”.

Comments, reactions and discussion from MAPPS members is encouraged.

Tags:  Davis-Bacon  Jobs  Surveying  Workforce 

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